Simple genesis for this particular piece; someone on some forum somewhere asked “Who would be on the Mount Rushmore of ROH.” As I mulled the proposition over, it quickly became apparent that three of the four heads picked themselves, while the fourth was infinitely more problematic.
The first three choices would be CM Punk, Brian Danielson (currently known as Daniel Bryan, lest anyone get upset) and Samoa Joe. Punk and Danielson are the two biggest stars that ROH has ‘produced’, for lack of a better term – or to put it another way, the two ROH alumni who have gone on to achieve the most success. Additionally, Dragon would make the granite face on the strength of his ROH title reign – the best run with the belt in terms of length and match quality any of the holders have had. While Joe undoubtedly underachieved after he left ROH, his ROH title reign was arguably the most significant, in that it elevated the ROH World title to arguably the most important non-WWE title in America at the time. Additionally, when the Feinstein Perverted Justice story broke and the TNA talent jumped ship, Joe, Punk and Dragon pretty carried the company through a period when the survival of the promotion looked fairly dicey.
So there’s the first three heads accounted for. The fourth though? That’s a much tougher question.
On the face of it (no pun intended) it should probably be Nigel McGuinness. The second longest reigning ROH champion in the company’s history, and the only man to hold the title for a full calendar year. And yet McGuinness’s reign was dogged with problems; from his own issues with injuries to the fact that his spell as champion saw the company take a downturn creatively that it’s arguably never recovered from. Not that the latter was McGuinness’s fault – but nonetheless, he’s still associated with the decline of Gabe and Pearce’s disastrous first six months as booker. McGuinness should have been a great champion; but for the reasons given just, ultimately wasn’t.
So who else could fill the fourth spot? What about Austin Aries, the first two-time champion in company history? It’s ironic that Aries was the first wrestler to hold the belt two times, and yet both reigns were a disappointment. Aries is undoubtedly an ROH legend; but that legendary status rests on his achievements outside of the world title – his matches with Danielson, the tag-team with Strong, his role in Generation Next. The point is though, that if we’re excluding McGuinness, then we have to exclude Aries, as McGuinness was undoubtedly a better champion than Aries.
Trying to find a fourth figure outside of the two just mentioned really brings home the split in ROH history between the Gabe and post-Gabe periods. (Gabe himself used love splitting ROH into different time periods – or ‘chapter points’ – how ironic that his sacking would provide one of the key joints that ROH history could be carved at.) Regardless of what you thought of Gabe’s booking, his incarnation of ROH has a buzz surrounding it that the company has never been able to regain once it was lost in late 2007. Any name you can come up with almost instantly rules itself out. Davey Richards probably should have been, if his progression as a worker hadn’t stalled around early 2011. Kevin Steen was always massively overrated, plus his title reign coincided with the company’s worst ever creative period. If he’d hung around for a bit longer Tyler Black might have earned the spot; ditto Claudio if he’d ever had a World Title run. Chris Daniels, although central in getting the promotion off the ground, was too in and out of the promotion to qualify. Jay Briscoe has never cut it as a top-line singles wrestler, despite his two world title reigns.
However, Jay ultimately ends up on our ROH Mount Rushmore…along with his brother. The Briscoes as a tag team put together a body of work between 2006-08 that probably justifies their inclusion. Although they were never really the same after Mark’s knee injuries in 2008, they’ve still been able to put on some very good matches since then.
So the ROH Mount Rushmore consists of: CM Punk, Brian Danielson, Samoa Joe and The Briscoe Brothers. And it only took 700 words to get there…..